International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) members have reaffirmed their commitment to proffer safe and environmentally responsible operations, as the Association marks its 30th anniversary.
The non-profit organisation was founded in 1991 by seven companies, which had been operating expeditions to Antarctica for several years and wanted to create a global, non-profit industry alliance, to develop substantive regulations and guidelines compatible with the best practices that were already being followed in the field.
Since then, IAATO has grown to more than 100 worldwide companies, each working to ensure the protection and preservation of Antarctica through responsible practices, mandatory protocols and robust guidelines.
The reaffirmation was made at the opening of IAATO’s annual meeting on 12th May, held online this year, due to ongoing COVID restrictions on international travel.
Gina Greer, IAATO Executive Director, said: “As well as an opportunity to discuss safety, environmental protection and self-management, our annual meeting is normally a time for members to reunite after up to a year apart. While sadly we were once again unable to meet in person, we still wanted to mark this incredible milestone in our journey during our virtual annual gathering.
“This last year wasn’t the year any of us expected. It has been challenging for all our members and their staff, but while the world remains in this period of uncertainty, our mission endures,” she said.
This year’s meeting was hosted across three four-hour sessions via video conference, allowing members to connect and discuss various aspects of IAATO business, including the voting-in of new members and committee chairs, enhanced guidelines and safe and environmentally responsible travel to Antarctica in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Association will also host a series of ‘Town Halls’ to discuss other pressing topics throughout the year.
Outgoing IAATO Executive Committee Chair, Mark Van der Hulst, who steps down this year following five years on the Committee, with two at the helm, said: “IAATO has resolved to set the highest possible operating standards in its mission to protect Antarctica while transporting and educating those captivated by it.
“IAATO demonstrates that first-hand, environmentally responsible travel is possible in remote and precious wilderness areas. As we mark this milestone year, we reaffirm our commitment to upholding our exceptional standards and the continuous development of operating practices to strengthen our mission,” he said.